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Litigating Disaster

A Film by Ilan Ziv

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December 3, 1984. Bhopal, India. The biggest and deadliest chemical disaster of all time. Nearly twenty years later the ordeal isn't over, justice has not been done. Had the disaster occurred in the developed world, heads would have rolled, prison sentences would have been served, changes would have been made. But the disaster didn't happen in the West, but in this obscure Indian city.

About midnight on December 3 huge amounts of toxic gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, poisoning hundreds of thousands of people, and killing thousands.

Today, hundreds of thousands of people still suffer. Drinking water for at least sixteen nearby communities remains severely polluted, while, to date, no court of law anywhere in the world has ever held Union Carbide or any of its officers responsible for what happened that night.

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How is it possible that nearly two decades after an event of such magnitude there is no legal closure? Why has the case been left to rot in the backwaters of the legal system without delivering justice to the victims?

The powerful new film LITIGATING DISASTER explores how Union Carbide successfully manipulated both the US and the Indian legal systems against each other, to avoid having to defend its record in the Bhopal plant in court. Featuring, a young Indian-American lawyer, the film follows the case he brought on behalf of the victims in front of the Federal District Court in New York. Case number 99CIV 11239 has survived two motions to dismiss, and is now proceeding to trial.

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Constructed as attorney Rajan Sharma's case as presented to fictitious jurors, LITIGATING DISASTER takes the viewers on a riveting cinematic investigation; presenting the compelling evidence assembled against Union Carbide including unique, never before seen documents unearthed through prolonged legal struggles, exclusive interviews with Union Carbide former officers, powerful archival material, and scenes filmed in and out of the abandoned plant.

As the story unfolds, the film makes it clear the real culprit is the lack of any international law or tribunal to govern the activities of multinational corporations. Or, Rajan Sharma puts it to the imaginary jurors, "The consequences of leaving something like Bhopal un-addressed, creating this kind of vacuum in the legal systems of the world for impunity for these kind of multinational corporations for this type of conduct means that there is a certain inevitability of this kind of tragedy recurring again and again until somebody has the sense to say that just because this happened in the Third World or in a developing country does not mean we do not have to take it seriously."

"Highly Recommended! Chronicling one of the worst industrial disasters in world history, this documentary raises a series of important questions... Eyewitness testimonies provide a vivid picture of the human suffering caused by the gas leak at the Union Carbide plant."—Educational Media Reviews Online

2005 Annual Conference on South Asia (University of Wisconsin)
2005 Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs
2005 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
2005 Association for Asian Studies Film Festival

52 minutes / Color
Release: 2004
Copyright: 2004

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Asia, Business Ethics, Business and Economics, Economics, Environment, Environmental Film Festivals, Ethics, Globalization, Health Issues, Human Rights, India, Law, Science and Technology, South Asia

Related Links:
The Films of Ilan Ziv

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